SYRACUSE Youth did not cost the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team its first defeat of the season.
Yet when the Hornets fell, 61-52, on Friday night to defending Section III Class AA champion Henninger, it could not escape notice that the older, more experienced Black Knights kept calm and made crucial plays in the stretch to turn back F-M's stubborn effort.
"We played hard and had a chance to win," said head coach Tom Blackford. "Our young guys competed."
With less than four minutes left, the Hornets were down by just two, 48-46, yet could not here, as at other times in the second half, get the basket it needed to tie or pull ahead.
Instead, the Black Knights, with baskets from seniors Tevin Chisholm and Quashawn Gainey, inched the margin to 52-46, and when Kavon Delee, benched for most of the fourth quarter with four troubles, hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:55 left, Henninger was clear.
"We didn't panic," said Black Knights head coach Erik Saroney. "We went ahead and made 'experience' plays."
F-M had roared out to an 8-0 start this season despite starting two freshmen and a sophomore most of the way. One of those ninth-graders, T.J. Wheatley, did not start against Henninger, but would come off the bench and play most of the game.
Not once on this night did the Hornets lead, but it showed poise and resolve by never letting the Black Knights get too comfortable.
Trailing 12-6 in the first quarter, F-M was within three, 14-11, at period's end. The margin stretched back to 24-16 in the second period as Henninger applied full-court pressure and forced a rash of Hornet turnovers, but again the visitors scraped back before going to the break down 30-24.
It was much the same in the third quarter, too, F-M three times moving within a single basket, but never able to catch up, even as Delee, who had 13 of his 18 points in the second half, picked up his fourth foul at the end of that period.